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PODCAST 143: Getting in Touch: How to Talk to People Who Don’t Know You with Kata Nyitrai

If you missed episode 142, check it out here: Restructuring Customer Experience Through Employee Experience with Mike McNary

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Show Agenda and Timestamps

  1. Show Introduction [00:04]
  2. Who is Kata Nyitrai and what is Meero? [2:30]
  3. Growing a business in Europe vs. growing a business in the U.S. [9:19]
  4. How the role of sales development has changed [13:10]
  5. Keeping new sales professionals focused on the mission [18:44]
  6. The most important parts of your technology stack [24:27]
  7. Who influenced Kata’s life and career [26:42]
  8. Sam’s Corner [30:10]

Show Introduction [00:04]

Sam Jacobs: This week on the show, we’ve got Kata Nyitrai, head of global sales development for Meero, a fast-growing company in Europe. She talks about how to get in touch with people, specifically how you can generate meetings. Meero and I discuss the best mechanisms for multi-channel communication and all the different ways people can reach out to other people. We go into detail about reaching out in Europe, where GDPR is an important presence in terms of how you engage with people who haven’t heard about you before.

Now, before we get there, we’ve got two sponsors that we want to tell you about. The first is Revenue Grid. What’s your sales organization’s biggest challenge right now? Remote work? Buyers tightening budgets? Guided selling with Revenue Grid allows you to guide reps step-by-step through every deal, reducing guesswork and increasing consistency, so your teams have the best odds with every opportunity in the pipeline. See how you can put your sales teams in the best position to win now at revenuegrid.com/saleshacker.

Of course, our second sponsor is a wonderful company called Outreach. The Sales Hacker Podcast is powered by Outreach, the sales engagement platform for the modern sales org. I’m not really here to sell anything, but I am here to share good ideas in the hopes that you buy them. One of the best ideas I’ve ever had is Outreach. I’m just the messenger. Chris Pearce, the VP of Sales at Tableau, says they run their entire business from Outreach. Tableau’s a very big company. Nicolette Mullinex, Snowflake’s Enterprise Sales Director, says Outreach is the pillar behind how they’ve been able to scale. Want to see what the number one sales engagement platform can do for your business? Head to outreach.io/saleshacker for a four-minute sneak peek or to request a demo. You’ll get an inside view to how Outreach brings efficiency, visibility, and versatility to modern sales teams.

Now for some other great sales ideas in my conversation with Kata Nyitrai.

Who is Kata Nyitrai and what is Meero? [2:30]

Sam Jacobs: Hey, everybody, it’s Sam Jacobs. Welcome to The Sales Hacker Podcast. Today, we are excited to have on the show Kata Nyitrai. Kata is the global director of business development for a company called Meero and a really passionate leader when it comes to the sales development space. Kata’s also an internationally recognized sales expert, given her background. She’s actually talking to us from France today. So Kata, welcome to the show.

Kata Nyitrai: Hi, Sam. Thank you so much.

Sam Jacobs: Thank you for being here. We’re excited to have you. You’re the global director of business development for a company called Meero. So the first thing that we want to do is contextualize your expertise by giving you an opportunity to tell us a little bit more about Meero. What does Meero do?

Kata Nyitrai: Basically we provide a global platform and visual content for companies, like for instance, UberEATS or Airbnb. Over this quite short period of time, we managed to create a huge network of photographers all around the world. And we also have new eye technology and thanks to that, we are physically taking care of all the visual content of our partners.

Sam Jacobs: That’s cool. So you have photographers all over the world, and they’re taking pictures and that gives you a unique library. This is maybe instead of accessing a traditional stock photo library, would that be accurate?

Kata Nyitrai: Yeah, that’s correct. There are a couple of companies that would just access traditional libraries, but some of our competitors can be also just freelancers or actual photo agencies. So the idea is that we are not just taking the photos, but we are literally streamlining everything and taking care of the actual streamline.

Sam Jacobs: Awesome. Okay. Tell us a little bit more about the company. How old is it? How big is it? How many people? Where is it based?

Kata Nyitrai: It’s pretty young compared to the group that we had. And actually, we started around 2016 and now with the most recent fundraising, which was in June 2019, altogether we raised 300 million, which is quite huge, especially by European standards. Because they know that obviously in the U.S. it can be quite usual, but within Europe, it’s definitely one of the biggest fundraisings that have happened.

Sam Jacobs: Wow. And how many people work at the company?

Kata Nyitrai: We scaled pretty fast actually from zero to 700 people all around the world in four years. We have offices and not just in Paris, in Barcelona, but we pretty much cover the US as well and the APAC. So we’ve managed to scale quite impressively.

Sam Jacobs: Wow. That is impressive. Okay. Well, congratulations on the success and the growth. Let’s learn a little bit about you. So tell us about your background and how did you become the head of sales development for one of the fastest-growing companies in Europe. Tell us, how did you get into sales, where you’re from originally? Give us a little bit of that.

Kata Nyitrai: I was born and raised in Hungary and I completed my studies in the Netherlands. I did my last internship in New York and this is where I fell in love with sales, which is a funny story because the reality is that I really wanted to go to New York. So even though I was more interested in finance, I took a digital marketing internship. And basically in the second week, they asked me to cold call a list of companies. So if someone told me back then that I’m going to end up in sales, I would have literally laughed my ass off because that was definitely not my thing. And once I had to start calling, honestly, I just really enjoyed it. So essentially I was spending the whole internship as a kind of an account executive, but it was more like an inbound and outbound role as well. And essentially I realized that I really want to get into sales.

So when I went back to the Netherlands, I started as a commodity broker. It’s a bit different from the site of the ecosystem. And basically, I was focusing on biofuel. It was kind of an obvious choice because it was sales with finance. So, it was definitely a great time. It was a very hectic environment, definitely different from my roles after where the sales cycles were way more complex and long. So you could definitely just close a deal in five minutes, let’s say. But essentially this is where I really managed to work first with the c-level executives, learn how to work with them, how to repeatedly and continuously do business with them, and be their best friends. So this is something that definitely helped me after. And to be fair, I really enjoyed it. But then I fell in love again, but this time with my boyfriend and his friends, so I followed him to France. So this is why I started working at Aircall.

Sam Jacobs: Oh, I didn’t realize you worked at Aircall.

Kata Nyitrai: Aircall is an assessed solution cloud-based one system. So again, it’s different from brokerage. And I started as an account executive there focusing on the full cycle, focusing on the bigger deals. And actually, after one year, I became an SDR team leader and then a sales manager so managed to develop the entire sales team of Aircall. We designed the Sales Academy, which is like a quite intensive training program. And that was partly the reason why I think they also recruited me in a Meero because back then when I joined, the structure was not there because they scaled very fast. So essentially, the structures and techniques that we had with one or two sales stayed with a larger 100 sales reps included teams. So in the end, that was my mission to bring some structure and train the people.

Growing a business in Europe vs. growing a business in the U.S. [9:19]

Sam Jacobs: That’s an incredible journey. You’ve worked in the United States, you’ve worked in Europe, now you’re in France. What do you think the biggest differences are between trying to grow a company in the US and trying to grow a company in Europe?

Kata Nyitrai: That’s a good question. I think when it comes to Europe, obviously, you have a lot of different cultures here. Right? And in the end, what I learned from both Meero and Aircall is that even though there are a lot of those sovereign countries in Europe, in the end, the cultural differences are not so high. So actually, I think you can scale quite fast in Europe with the right people if you have local people. How I would like to answer this question is the difficulties that I see once European companies like to enter the U.S. markets. So both of the companies that I’ve worked with Aircall and Meero, it definitely takes time. And I think it takes more time than we would initially think.

Sam Jacobs: More time to enter the US market. Is that what you’re saying?

Kata Nyitrai: That’s correct. Because the reality is that, I think a lot of people would think that, okay, we understand the language, right. So we speak English, but essentially when it comes to selling into the US.. market and to really enter in a very fierce competition, most of the cases, that’s very difficult. So in both of my companies, what I saw is that, the US market was always one of the, let’s say, toughest parts.

Sam Jacobs: That’s interesting. And yet it’s also a very big market. You’ve worked at Aircall and now Meero, and you’ve talked about how quickly they’ve grown. What do you think the biggest lessons you’ve learned from your time at startups is?

Kata Nyitrai: They were hyper-growth environments. And honestly, in these environments, what you see is that the structure and the strategy of the companies can change extremely fast, which is normal because this is what it is. In the end, the funders will always look at the company’s goal at first. So in this kind of environment, the person’s interests can sometimes not be aligned with the company’s interests. And I saw it a lot actually within my team, with a lot of people in other startups as well. I think it’s really important that even though it’s a family and definitely you can have an extraordinary lifetime experience that’s unique and you’re going to cherish it for the rest of your life. But still, you should not just be afraid to move and to change.

Sam Jacobs: To move jobs or to just… Or your point is that the companies themselves are evolving so rapidly that sometimes people just need to be in that change mindset because if they want to do the same thing, their job might change from day to day?

Kata Nyitrai: I think both. If you work in a startup, you have to have this default to change mindset because essentially, indeed your job can change from day to day. But what I see is that sometimes people, they stick within startups because of this family spirit, and essentially they’re not happy anymore because maybe just the company’s direction is not aligned anymore with their personal needs. And in that moment, I think, it’s good to change. And we should not be afraid of change. So we should always cherish these moments and this tenure there, but in the end, it is a job.

How the role of sales development has changed [13:10]

Sam Jacobs: Let’s talk a little bit about your role. So you’re the head of sales development. You’re somebody that’s responsible for generating meetings, generating pipelines. How has the role of sales development changed over the last couple of years? What do you think the newest best practices are when it comes to getting people’s attention and getting them to agree to a meeting with your solution?

Kata Nyitrai: That’s a very good question. Honestly, I think over the past couple of years, I think sales development gained a huge presence. So even though I think a lot of people look down on an SDR or BDR job because this is the starting point of a sales career, I also think there are more and more people now that actually appreciate it. And they also understand that that can be one of the most difficult parts of the sales cycle. But definitely, it’s still getting, I think, quite a huge presence and that shoots a very competitive job and there are way more different approaches and essentially like, you always have to stay creative.

And for instance, if you’re looking at, let’s say like the ’90s when everybody was cold calling and in the end, cold calling became a huge issue, especially in the U.S., I believe, as everybody moved towards emails. And then now for instance in the MEA, we have a GDPR.

So now we are moving a little bit to social, so to LinkedIn.

Sam Jacobs: Because you’re not allowed to email people directly, so you have to find other ways to engage with them.

Kata Nyitrai: That’s correct. And also, I think COVID had a huge role in it because people will be more active on LinkedIn. So, essentially the response rates were way higher there. But what I’m just saying is that there are always strengths and essentially, when people are fed up with the calls and they’re going to move to emails and they’re fed up with emails and they’re going to move to calls and so on. But I think what is the most important and well, really the power of outreach really lies, is multiple channels. So I think we have to be resilient and we have to be everywhere. Like literally everywhere. They have to see us everywhere on all the channels. And yes, one of the biggest key elements is hyper-personalization.

Sam Jacobs: When you’re talking about multichannel, give us a day in the life of an SDR at Meero and how many different places are they trying to connect with people?

Kata Nyitrai: When it comes to the channels, call, email, and social, so LinkedIn, and when it comes to the media, so we can definitely go through text, voice, and the video. And for instance, when it comes to text, it really depends because obviously, most people think of email and emails in general, but there’s always, of course, sending the messages, WhatsApp messages. The reality is that even though I’m always struggling with WhatsApp messages because obviously they are not integrated with Salesforce. So it’s impossible to track them. If you ask my sales reps, I definitely had this conversation with them several times: “Can’t you do it just via email or LinkedIn?” But in the end, there are some locations that they’re way more reactive to WhatsApp messages, for instance, APAC, Latin America. And then you have text messages, also for instance, if you have a relationship with some enterprise accounts, for instance, they’re way more reactive on text messages.

And then when it comes to voice, obviously calling, but then voice messages, LinkedIn Voice Messages.

Sam Jacobs: LinkedIn Voice Messages are great.

Kata Nyitrai: I think in the US it’s way more common. Are you receiving a lot?

Sam Jacobs: I’m not receiving a lot, but when I do receive them, I always listen to them. And it’s just a level of personalization because you actually hear the person’s voice. And I don’t really listen to voicemails because now on my iPhone, I get a transcription of the voicemail without having to listen to the voicemail. So a lot of times I’m not even listening to it. But I do listen to the LinkedIn Voicemails, yeah.

Kata Nyitrai: And that’s the reality, and this is what I’m always asking my reps: “So have you ever received a LinkedIn Voice Message?” And most of the people, especially in Europe, in Latin America, and APAC, honestly, it’s really not common. I think the feature came out quite a while ago, but it’s still not common. And yeah, the answer is always no. So I’m like, “Okay, so you have your answer. This is literally the way to send out because if you receive one, you will listen to it.”

Sam Jacobs: That’s true. Yeah, absolutely.

Kata Nyitrai: I’m a huge fan of videos. You can definitely bring directly your personalized approach. You have different platforms where you can just share your screen at the same time. So you can bring your value proposition directly.

Keeping new sales professionals focused on the mission [18:44]

Sam Jacobs: As you’ve moved up the ladder in terms of your career, but specifically when you think about managing SDRs, what do you think are the key things that new managers to sales development teams need to keep in mind? And what’s the best way that you found to really motivate and engage a group of sometimes entry-level sales professionals to really be focused on the goal that the company is trying to hit?

Kata Nyitrai: I think for that very intense training program, and in that case, for instance, the onboarding program is crucial. And this is something that I first started at Aircall. The power of these onboarding programs and the way, first of all, that you can then run them up, it’s just really day and night without any structured training program. And this can also give them the feeling and not just feeling, but that’s the reality that you are investing in them. That you really spend time with them, and you want them to grow and you enable them to grow because actually, you give them access to materials to do the kitty training. And honestly, I think this will naturally motivate them as well, because yeah, they feel, again, invested in.

And even though these training sessions should be strict, in the end, you also celebrate it. You can have exams, for instance, oral exams, written exams, and that can, like, once you pass it, you celebrate it together, that’s a little milestone. And celebrating those little milestones, like the first week, first month, in startup life, I think it’s really crucial.

Sam Jacobs: So how long do you think somebody should be an SDR? Like what kind of career path thing do you provide or what kind of structure do you provide for moving up the ranks to the point of milestones?

Kata Nyitrai: Yeah, I think it really depends on the product that you’re selling and the industry itself. For instance, in Aircall, we definitely had this division between the SDRs and the account executives, and technically the progression was also based on your achievements during the training program. Those were, like how are you hitting your monthly goals? So essentially you could become a senior BDR anywhere, senior SDR, sorry. Now, since in Meero we call them BDRs and so I’m always mixing them up.

Sam Jacobs: Well, we can call them whatever we want to call them. So I understand what you’re saying.

Kata Nyitrai: So if you went through the training, you did well during the training and for four months in a row, you hit your targets, you could become Senior BDR directly. And then after a while, depending on, again, the closing and the KPIs given, you could be eligible to become an account executive from eight-month on. But it also depends on obviously the actual neat, because like how they want to scale and whether there is open space. The reality is that in Meero now we transformed our sales structure. So before we had this division as well, and since we scaled very fast, actually the opportunity could be there very quickly. And it happened to a couple of people that after four or five months, they could really end up in a key account manager position.

But now when we actually, again, restructured the sales team, and essentially we trained everyone and met everyone for cycle key account manager. Because it really is that we are going after enterprise accounts. So for Meero, the minimum contract value is 100K and actually, we managed to close contracts in intra quarters. So the sales cycle is pretty short compared to the months. And essentially there’s a trick that it’s better to just do four cycles because then you can re-nurture this relationship, it’s better not to divide it. So I think, again, it really depends, first of all, whether it’s SME mid-market, enterprise, and the sales cycle itself. I honestly do look at the SDR and the account executive job as an equal job. So I think it’s equally difficult. It just related to different parts of the sales cycle. But I don’t think that.

I don’t look at SDR jobs or BDR jobs as an entry-level job. I think it’s definitely one of the toughest parts of the sales cycle. And essentially if someone is as good as they are, a BDR, with gaining product knowledge, they can definitely be a good account executive after, because they’re pushy. They’re definitely resilient. And I saw on the other hand that a couple of account executives, yeah, they can never be BDS because they could never cold call and yeah, they could never go through the prospect boards.

Sam Jacobs: Do you think that BDRs and account executives should be paid the same?

Kata Nyitrai: Again, it’s the same topic, right? Because most of the companies and most of the countries, it’s more like an entry-level position. So obviously, when someone gets in an entry-level position, then you’re going to pay them less. Right? But if the structure allows you to have people specialize in different parts of the sales cycle, then yes, because the job is definitely as hard as being an AE.

The most important parts of your technology stack [24:27]

Sam Jacobs: Awesome. Cool. Just a couple more questions. What are the most important parts of your technology stack? And also, how do you continue to coach the team on being differentiated as more and more teams are using similar technology tools?

Kata Nyitrai: One of the most important tech stacks, especially when it comes to the prospection part, is definitely sales automation tools. So currently we’re using SalesLoft, but I also used Outreach in the past, and to be fair, both of them are amazing companies. The reality is that it would be difficult for me to imagine life without them. Even though, it’s difficult for us to convince sales guys sometimes to use it because you have this two weeks of ramping up period and they are a bit overwhelmed with all the tech, but essentially once you get into it, you just cannot imagine your life without it. So it’s definitely a game-changer. And honesty, even though of course, I’m all for hyper-personalization, but definitely it gives you the ability to scale.

So that is extremely important. Obviously, most of the companies now are also using sales automation tools. In the end, it can be a big difference compared to the competition when it comes to the structure of your outreach and the impact of it. So yeah, for me, this, again, sales automation tools is extremely important. I’m always the biggest advocate of it within the company where I’m working.

Who influenced Kata’s life and career [26:42]

Sam Jacobs: The sales engagement platforms are so important to how people are reaching out to folks these days. The last question we have for you is: when you think about people that have or ideas or books that have shaped your perspective on sales in the world, what comes to mind? Who should we know about that you think is important?

Kata Nyitrai: I can consider myself very lucky during my professional experiences because, at both Aircall and both at Meero, I had amazing direct managers. So first at Aircall, basically, I was directly managed during the entire time there by Jonathan Anglo, so the founder of Aircall and he is also the CEO of Aircall. He always believed in me. And honestly, Jon is like this, that he lifts people up and he believes in people, and sometimes you need this little kickstart in order to prove that you were fit. So, yeah, definitely Jon and my current manager right now who is also the CEO of Meero.

So he is also my direct manager there, and he’s an amazing person. He’s definitely my mentor. And honestly, he has this drive and energy that it’s something that inspires literally everyone around him. The moment he steps into the room everything’s changing. So yeah, I really consider myself lucky when it comes to those parts. And yeah, when it comes to books, I think just like a lot of people in the sales industry right now, I’m a big fan of Chris Voss. So I read, Never Split The Difference. And I also obviously watched his masterclass, which is definitely a masterpiece. We even included it in our sales academy at Meero. So literally, I forced people to go through as a homework, the 10 minutes pieces. So yeah, that’s definitely a great, great input.

Sam’s Corner [30:10]

Sam Jacobs: Hey everyone. It’s Sam Jacobs. Sam Jacobs, not Sam Jacobs. It’s Sam’s corner. That’s what it really is. And it’s also the Sales Hacker podcast. And what we’re going to be doing is recounting some of the big themes from my conversation with Kata. I thought it was a great conversation. A couple of things that I just want to emphasize. The first is her emphasis on training and onboarding for your sales development team and how onboarding is such a critical part of how you set the first impression with your company, how you get them ready, how you train them, and how you make sure that they have a long-lasting trajectory with your business. The second thing I’d point out is just her emphasis on multichannel. She’s in Europe, you can’t just do email. And so she is reaching out to people on LinkedIn. She’s using video, she’s using text messaging, she’s using WhatsApp, even though it doesn’t integrate very well with Salesforce and her sales development team is trying everything they possibly can to have a great conversation and to generate a meeting.

It’s not that email doesn’t work or phone calls don’t work. All of them work in conjunction with each other. You really need to be trying all of the different venues and methods of communication and different communication channels in order for you to be able to connect successfully with your prospects. So I thought that was a really important part of the conversation. And I hope you got something from it.

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